90 3rd Ave (between 12th and 13th St, East Village)
Fatty Kat Eats: Scallion Pancakes, Wontons in Chili Oil, Double Cooked Fish, String Beans with Minced Pork, Spicy Crispy Cucumbers
You know that Kings of Leon song, Sex on Fire? Well this post is about Tongue on Fire. Be careful at Han Dynasty! I probably lost a few taste buds. Sichuan food is known to be ridiculously spicy. However, that didn’t stop us from haphazardly ordering back to back tongue-numbing dishes.
So far, this Philadelphia institution has been wildly successful at its new East Village location. I’m sure a lot of it has to do w th the popular Dan Dan Noodles. Normally, these spicy noodles don’t call for peanut sauce, but I was a fan nonetheless. The chewy noodles came in a huge portion, which served the 4 of us very easily (and that’s with seconds and thirds).
The Scallion Pancakes were delicious, although a few pieces were a little too doughy for me. The good pieces were fried so that the various golden layers separated from each other. These tasted great with the sweet and spicy sauce on the side.
We had high hopes for the Beef and Tripe in Chili Oil. Unlike the name, the beef and tripe were hardly in any chili oil, which left everything a little dry and bland (in a Han Dynasty way). Wu Liang Ye, one of my family’s favorite Chinese restaurants in the city, still has the best version of this dish (or any dish for that matter!).
The Wontons in Chili Oil were phenomenal. I used to make wontons with my mom as a kid, so I’m absolutely certain these were freshly wrapped and cooked. The silky wonton skins held small chunks of juicy ground pork, and even our numb mouths could taste how special these were. FYI, the main difference between wontons and dumplings are that dumplings: 1) have thicker skins, 2) are typically longer (more simply wrapped than wontons), 3) are not as good as wontons.
We were warned that the Spicy Crispy Cucumbers were a 7 on the 1-10 spice rating system. My mouth prepared for a 7, and I had napkins on hand to wipe away the tears. But luckily, these were more like a 3 and more refreshing and sweet than spicy. We all agreed that this was one of our favorite things on the table.
Not impressed. The Mapo Tofu with Minced Pork tasted as if someone took a bunch of soft tofu and dumped it in some stupid sauce. It’s almost hard for me to call this dish “bland” with all the spices and colors going on, but it really was bland. The tofu was actually really soft and delicate, but we couldn’t get past the sauce.
Allow me to introduce you to the Double Cooked Fish with leeks, black beans and chili oil. I hope you two become good friends. This dish was really, really, really good. The white flaky fish (most likely flounder) was coated in an amazing batter that glistened like jewels and gave a little crunch with each bite. Yes, it was spicy, but it was tangy, garlicky and smoky as well.
I’m just going to say it, and I hope I don’t eat my words later. These are the best flash fried string beans ever. The best. You can only achieve this kind of perfection with a lot of heat and oil. You know it's good when the outer skin separates from the bottom layer. The String Beans with Minced Pork were so sweet, crunchy and flavorful. Yum!
Han Dynasty is not a pretty restaurant, but what it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in flavor (maybe a little too much). While Wu Liang Ye has always been one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in the city, Han Dynasty knows what’s up too…and it’s far cheaper!